Exercise Over 60
The sixties are often known as the golden years. They could also be known as the decade of the joint. Why? These parts of your body tend to start talking to you the loudest at this age. Arthritis, bad knees, and the like all really boil down to joint issues. Your joints have been moving since the day you were born. It makes sense that they are also the parts of you that wear out the most noticeably.
When you come into your sixties you still need to work out hard—hard for you, that is. That probably won’t be at the same level as that 20-something ‘gym rat’ on the treadmill next to you. In fact, I can guarantee it. Don’t feel bad about that. Your maximum aerobic heart rate range has just dropped another 10 beats per minute from what it was 10 years ago.
You can find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So if you just turned 60…
160 = Your maximum heart rate. 200= Gym rat’s maximum heart rate.
As you can see, if that kid isn’t working harder than you, he needs to get moving!
If you want to work in the low aerobic mode to burn the most fat you will work at 60-65% of your maximum rate. For our sixty year old that means 96. If you want to work on your cardiovascular conditioning you will want to work at 75% of your maximum capacity. For the average 60 years old that is 120 beats per minute.
If you’ve read through this website you know what I’m about to tell you. Get a heart monitor. There is nothing as painful as trying to work out and keep track of your heart rate without one of these wonderful little toys. Get the heart rate monitor or you are going to waste a good percentage of your workouts either working too hard or not working hard enough. You can get one at HeartRateMonitorUSA.com. Just do it.
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How to Begin Exercising Safely and Effectively
When you’re just beginning, you will want to concentrate on long and slow exercise sessions. Keep yourself in the 60-65% range until you become conditioned. Make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning or increasing any exercise program. Remember, it is far better to exercise lightly and adjust it up gradually day by day than to over-do it and never come back. One hard exercise session will not turn the tide of a sedentary lifestyle.
Your aging joints can change the emphasis of your workouts. You will still be exercising 6 days a week. In fact, now that you are retired this will be your new job. Your job is the thing you went to every day, rain or shine, whether you wanted to or not. Exercise is also non-negotiable. Age isn’t trying to creep up on you any more. That old lion has you in its jaws and is trying to drag you away to devour you. Exercise is the stick you use to beat him back.
What to Do
There are three types of exercise that you will be doing to beat back the lion: cardiovascular work, strength training, and balance/core work. Here is what you need to know to make these work for you:
Listen to your joints. You may have to avoid exercises that jar or stress your joints. If you’ve never exercised at all (or are getting back after a long absence) stick with brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, water jogging, water aerobics, and the stationary bike and treadmill.
If you’ve kept yourself active, do a little experimenting to see what works for you. If you are used to long runs, exchange them for shorter runs or jogging. Don’t engage in a high-impact activity every day. Switch between high impact activities and a low impact activity like a spin class. Your major cardiovascular advantage is in endurance activities. An in-shape senior may not be as fast as a twenty-something gym rat, but you can keep going long after they give up and go home. And let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than outlasting one of those obnoxious hard-bodies!
You will want to perform some form of intense cardiovascular activity three days out of six. On the other days, incorporate more non-exercise related activities into your day. Here is where the gardening can come in. Go for a long stroll. Take a dancing class. Take a leisurely bike ride.
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Anyone can lift weights. Anyone. Dr. Fiatorone proved this when he took the frail elderly at a nursing home (his patients were between the ages of 86-93) and put them on a weight training plan. Many of these ladies and gentlemen were so weak they couldn’t walk without a walker. Some needed help just to get out of a chair. In just eight weeks these volunteers increased their strength by an average of 175%. Their walking speed and balance improved by 48%. Two of the participants threw out their canes.
If an 86 year old woman can benefit from a strength training program, so can you. You are twenty-some years younger. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never lifted a weight in your life. Obviously, if you’ve never lifted weights you will want to hire an expert to show you the ropes—and get medical clearance from your doctor. In general, they will both tell you to start using very light weights and then gradually work your way up in intensity.
Let me say this again—go slowly. Your tendons and ligaments will take longer to get strong and flexible than your muscles will take to get strong. Yes, you heard me. Your muscles and tendons improve at different rates. I’ll even tell you why.
Your circulatory system is in charge of bringing the cells that make your body stronger everywhere they are needed. Think of this as the roadway of your body. Your muscles have a lot of roadways—they are like cities. You can get anything in a large city. Your joints don’t get as much blood running through them. They are like the country. The roads are smaller and it takes longer to get what you want. Therefore your joints take longer to adapt to change. This is a vast oversimplification of a complex system, but you get the idea.
Strength train two days out of six. Use a weight that allows you to perform 8-10 repetitions. You should feel tired after the 10th rep. If you feel any pain, stop immediately. You will feel a little sore the next day. If you feel like you were run over by a truck, slow down.
Balance and Core work
You will be concentrating most of your effort on your balance and core exercises. The weight training will help you with your balance as well, but you need to do more than that. If you don’t do specific exercises to lengthen your ligaments, you will be doddering around in that short stride people in their 80’s usually develop. These exercises also improve your posture. This makes you look younger, and puts less stress on your joints.
Good activities that will help you with this include yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and workouts with the Bosu ball (a soft half-dome used for sitting and standing exercises).
For more exercises that develop strength in your core and flexibility everywhere else, see the balance sections in the chapters for 40 and 50 year olds. Here are a few more that will help with balance and strength:
1) Sit on the floor (if you don’t have osteoporosis). Put your legs out in front of you with your feet flexed. Hold your arms out in front of you like Frankenstein. Keep your back straight and lean your arms forward. Hold for 20 seconds, then move back to your start position.
2) Raise your arms above your head while your legs are still out in front of you. Pull your bellybutton into your spine. Your arms should be by your ears. Lean back very slightly—this is a small move. Hold for 20 seconds (or as long as you can, whichever is shorter). Beginners: Do 2 sets. Advanced: Do 4-6.
1) If you are still on the floor from the last exercise you can do this there. Otherwise, you can choose to do this in a chair. Either put your hands on the floor behind you and lean your weight on them, or hold the back of the chair.
2) Pull your knee up toward your chest just until your heel is off the ground. Hold for two and put it down. Do the other side. This is one rep. Beginners: Work up to 4 on each side. Advanced: Do 8. Beginners should add another set only when they are ready. Advanced people can start out at 2 sets and add on a third when they are ready.
The Tip Toe
Beginners, do this exercise near something you can grab hold of if you lose your balance. Use a handy wall or chair. Whatever it is, make sure it can hold your weight.
1) Stand with your feet touching. Now slowly rise on your tip toes for a count of 20. If this is easy, add the second part.
2) Raise your hands over your head while you are on tip toe. Put your palms together like you’re about to dive. Hold for 20 seconds reaching as far up as you can. If this is easy, do the third part.
3) Hold your hands as in part 2, but only for 10 seconds. Lower your arms to shoulder height. You should look like the letter ‘t.’ Hold this for 10 seconds. Change position every five seconds after this, up and down like you’re flying.
Yes, sixty means you have more aches and pains to deal with, but it doesn’t mean you have to get frail. Do some sort of exercise every day and you will enjoy your golden years in good health.
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